Nationals Notebook

After a Break, Zimmerman Looks to Lead

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 18, 2008

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 17 -- Now a crusty, seasoned veteran at the age of 23 -- and, with two-plus seasons under his belt, one of the half-dozen longest-tenured members of the Washington Nationals -- third baseman Ryan Zimmerman says he is prepared to take a bigger leadership role in the clubhouse.

"In [2006], I was quiet. [As a rookie], you come into a big-league clubhouse and you don't want to be talking and chirping around," said Zimmerman, who arrived in Viera on Sunday, three days before reporting day for position players. "I felt a little more comfortable last year, but I still was a little hesitant at some points. But I feel it's time. The five or six guys who have been here the last two or three years, we're tired of losing. We're good enough to win, I think."

Zimmerman said he is pain-free and has no limitations stemming from November surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left wrist after it fractured during a swing. "I've been taking ground balls and hitting the last two weeks," he said, "so it's good."

Hill Staying Cautious

On the first official workout day for pitchers and catchers, about a dozen pitchers threw bullpen sessions, including right-hander Shawn Hill, who threw to newly acquired catcher Johnny Estrada. Hill, who had offseason surgeries to his right elbow and left shoulder, was stopped by pitching coach Randy St. Claire about three-quarters of the way through a scheduled eight-minute session, but only out of caution.

"I'm trying to ease into it, but I felt fine," Hill said. "I don't want to have a setback a week into spring training."

General Manager Jim Bowden, who watched the sessions, cited top left-handed prospect Ross Detwiler's smoother, more direct delivery -- prescribed to him by St. Claire -- as the biggest revelation of the day. "His delivery is night and day from what we had when we drafted him" in June, Bowden said. "Obviously, he's worked on that."

Lopez Ready to Work

Infielder Felipe Lopez also was an early arrival Sunday, proclaiming himself unconcerned about the muddled middle-infield picture. "I know what I have to do," Lopez said. "I really don't care what anybody says. If I'm here to win a position, it's not a big deal to me, because I've been there and done that and I'm not afraid of it." Lopez chalked up last year's disappointing season to personal issues that have been resolved. "It's all taken care of. I'm ready," he said. "I'm just glad to be back. I had the itch. That's why I came here early."

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